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KCC opens it books to the public

Details of how millions of pounds of tax payers' money is spent - including the pay and perks of senior officers - are to go online as part of what is being hailed as a transparency revolution at County Hall. Kent County Council is to embark on a radical programme of opening its books to public inspection under a series of measures it believes will improve trust and understanding among residents.

Many of the proposals are in line with government moves to compel councils to be much more open about how they spend public money. County councillors backed the initiative at a meeting of KCC's Conservative cabinet on Monday.

Under its Transparency Programme, the council, which spends more than £2bn each year, is to publish a monthly list of all transactions of more than £500. And in a major departure, the council is to disclose the details of the pay and perks of all its top officers, along with any hospitality they have received and their declarations of interest. The authority has previously refused to identify the specific remuneration of its most senior officers but was forced to do so this year under new government audit regulations.

The reforms and moves to much greater openness about spending are being led by KCC's new group managing director Katherine Kerswell. In a cabinet report the council says:

"KCC views transparency as a fundamental principle of how we do business. Staff throughout KCC must understand that the public has a right to know how tax payers' money is spent and how effectively it is used. [It will be] a major opportunity for KCC to further improve our relationship with Kent residents through a more informed conversation."

Cllr Roger Gough (Con) KCC cabinet member for corporate services, said:

"It is going to go much further than we have in the past and we hope it will mean a much more direct relationship with the citizen and encourage them to get involved in what we do."

He acknowledged the council would need to consider carefully how it presented some of the details.

"People may struggle to understand if we publish just raw data and there may be cases where we have to give context."

Cllr Trudy Dean, opposition Liberal Democrat leader, said:

"I am very encouraged by this. I hope it reflects a change in KCC's mindset."

HB Gazette 16th September 2010 by Paul Francis, Political Editor,

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